Exclusive Excerpt: Lethe Press presents: Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen

I thought I’d offer a taste of the thriller/suspense aspect of Prince of the Sea for those who’ve not yet read my latest novel. This excerpt has never been seen before, so I hope you enjoy!

Short blurb:

Island myth or guarded secret?

Jonathan Lemke thought spending two weeks with his partner, Paul, in a beachside cottage on Tybee Island would rekindle the lost passion of their ten-year union, but a vengeful assailant intent on exposing the island’s secrets soon sets his sights on Jonathan and his mysterious childhood friend.


Exclusive Excerpt:

Jonathan approached the northern tip of the island before dusk for his rendezvous with Lucius. Climbing onto the boulders of the breakwater, he sat and watched the waves at his feet lap the jetty. Sea foam churned through the crevices, bubbling up through the breaks in the rocks. The ocean smelled of salt and seaweed and a hint of fish. He watched the broad beam from the lighthouse sweep the gloomy surface in rotary precision.

Inhaling the ocean’s scent, Jonathan loosened his shoulders and arms, letting the gentle breeze brush against his skin through his open shirt, trying to relax before his friend arrived. Not long after as Lucius appeared beside him like a chameleon from the shadows.

They made small talk for a while, reciting memories from their childhood together, hours of carefree adventures and the many misadventures of note, both glancing out into the abyss when Lucius asked an unexpected question.

“Are you happy, Jonathan?”

Had Lucius sensed his argument with Paul? he wondered. Happy? How does one respond to such a question? Sure, Paul had pissed him off, but he didn’t want to think about it as he hugged his knees and contemplated an answer of his happiness. Had he rushed to judgment before giving Paul a chance to explain? His partner likely had a very good reason for lying, for not wanting to come to the island in the first place. Ten years was a long time with the same person. At least in gay years, he thought.

“Yes…I am happy.” Jonathan flashed a smile that held a moment. He plucked a shell caught between the rocks and rubbed its inner surface between his fingers. “I’m only thirty-two, so I’d like to think there’s much more ahead to achieve in life.”

Tybee Beach2

Lucius appeared dour as he gazed out to sea. Same as last night, he’d shown up wearing white cotton chinos rolled to the calves and nothing else, the fabric fluttering in the breeze like his hair. The glow of the moon bathed his caramel skin in a luminescent sheen, a striking ruddiness that summoned the god of light.

Hugging his knees and turning his head, Jonathan admired the sheath of corded muscle layering his friend’s broad shoulders. Lucius’s back flared like a manta ray, wide at the top and narrow at the waist. Jonathan moved his eyes over the gentle giant, appreciating the sculpted body earned from sheer physical exertion, and not from some gym stocked with high-tech gear or a syringe. The kind of labor required to perfect such a physique eluded Jonathan as he clutched his knees tighter to disguise his growing approval.

He’s fucking gorgeous.

Lucius turned his head and flashed a heart-melting grin. Warmth spread through Jonathan’s cheeks as his embarrassment ignited. If what Lucius had said about reading each other’s emotions and thoughts was true, then Jonathan felt incredibly self-conscious. He struggled to suppress his grin like a goofy teenager out on his first date.

He felt young and virile again when he was with Lucius, livelier than he’d been in a very long time. In fact, his manner bordered on euphoric while they perched on the boulders of the breakwater shoulder to shoulder. They sat in the darkest region of the island near North Beach beneath the light of a thousand stars, glistening like tinsel hanging from the sky. Lighted structures sprinkled the shoreline for miles inland on either side of them.

The giant eye of the lighthouse swept across the water for miles.

“What about you, Lucius?” Jonathan asked. He spoke in a hushed tone, a soft melancholy settling over him. “Have you achieved all you’d hope?”

Lucius frowned, bringing his large hands together. “Jonathan, I have something to acknowledge, an important part of me I should have shared with you long before fate has brought us together again.” He swallowed hard, and Jonathan sensed a tightening in his chest, felt the pain of his friend’s confession.


“I should have revealed my secret when we were young pups still in the care of our elders, but I feared the anguish learning my secret would have caused you at the time. I am sorry to have betrayed your trust.” Lucius blinked away the moisture in his eyes. “I yearned to share my secret with you, Jonathan, to open my soul like a weeping siren caught on a jagged rock. Alas, my immaturity prevailed.” He swallowed. “You should understand, in my youth I feared my own shadow, unaware of my condition, of my own heritage.” He turned and the moonlight caught a flash of green in his eyes. “Selfish yes, but I feared losing your friendship should I disclose my secret.”

Jonathan listened quietly, the torment of his friend’s words like a mallet to his heart. Lucius had said they could read each other’s thoughts, and yet he felt nothing beyond the misery and despair of his friend. Listening to Lucius spill his truth made Jonathan want to pull the man into his arms and forever soothe his worries. Nothing Lucius could reveal would ever alter Jonathan’s love for the man. He was sure of it.

“Once I matured, my desires grew ever stronger, tougher still.” Lucius turned away and stared ahead. The muscles tensed in his thick neck. “I avoided revealing my troubles to my family. I should have gone to them sooner, but I didn’t understand what I was going through.” He lowered his chin to his knees. “I needed to unburden my heart, and confiding the truth eventually to my family helped banish my soul of its burden.”

Jonathan placed his hand on his Lucius’s shoulder, a gesture of comfort that produced a spark singeing his arm. “It’s okay,” he offered, grinning wide to reassure Lucius. Still, the sensation trailing his arm lingered. “Relax, will you? I think I know what you’re going to say.”

“Do you?” Lucius turned toward Jonathan with brows furrowed, fear and anguish shaping the features of his angelic face.

A spark flashed from behind them. Jonathan started a second before the rock nearest him spit bits of gravel and dust into the air. The next crack sent something sailing past Lucius as it split the water with incredible speed.

Did somebody just shoot at us?

Jonathan didn’t have time to react before Lucius hooked him under the arms and chucked them both into the waves with the speed of a harpoon. The shock of cold water biting his skin paled in comparison to the power now propelling them through the ocean at incredible speed. He had not grabbed enough air into his lungs before plunging beneath the surface and fought to hold onto to the precious little oxygen he had.

What the hell?


Fuck. Damn. Shit-fire!

Billy Wayne dove behind the pillars supporting the boardwalk. The walkway led out to the jetties from the public lot at the end of Gulick Street. His back flush against the rough, weathered wooden supports, he sucked the blood oozing from the wound on his hand. The rifle’s trigger had nicked his skin and jammed before he fired off another shot at the two men sitting on the jetty. No matter, he’d seen what he came for.


After taking a couple of wild shots at the men, the larger of the two, the darker skinned, long haired one, had pulled both men into the ocean with unbelievable agility. They had quickly disappeared beneath the water. Despite the pain pulsing through his hand, Billy Wayne grinned and savored the thought of getting the proof his daddy never got

He’d never doubted his old man, not one bit, but Billy Wayne had needed to see the abomination with his own eyes. All his life he’d heard about what could happen when they were provoked, and now he’d seen it with his own eyes. No human could have leapt from the boulders with such lightning speed and sprinted through the water like a barracuda.

Billy Wayne had to confirm his father’s legacy more than ever. He peered beyond the boardwalk, out toward the jetty. The two men hadn’t surfaced as he’d figured. He zippered his rifle in its gun case and trotted back to his old Ford truck. Pumping the gas pedal, he started the engine after a couple of turns of the key. He slammed the vehicle into first gear and shot out of the lot, fishtailing onto Gulick Street then taking a left onto Meddin Drive. He sped past several cross streets, hung a right onto U.S. 80, the island’s main thoroughfare, and then headed for Tybee Island Marina.

The dock crawled with deckhands in from the days’ haul when he arrived. They were weighing their catch as captains of the boats barked orders. Billy Wayne made his way to a small runabout boat moored in a slip far away from the chaos of the larger vessels. He was known to troll the waters for clams and shrimp to sell to the town’s restaurants, so no one paid him any mind. He glanced over and grunted toward the men working. Most had simply ignored him over the years, fingering him as the senseless offspring of the town crazy. He often arrived at all hours of the day and night, so his appearance after midnight tonight went unnoticed.

Billy Wayne checked out the pouch containing the harpoon gun and several stainless-steel-barbed rods. He sat down hard on the ragged cushion at the stern of his boat and pulled the crank-cord. The motor sputtered to life in a burst of blue smoke when the engine caught and he clicked it into gear. Passing Cockspur Lighthouse at Lazaretto Creek, he headed out the mouth of the Savannah River to the wide shadowy ocean. He was intent on proving once and for all the ancient island myth that had haunted his family for years was real.

Exclusive Excerpt: Dick Hardesty Mystery Book 13 – The Secret Keeper by Dorien Grey

The Secret Keeper (a Dick Hardesty Mystery) by Dorien Grey


P.I. Dick Hardesty listens with polite interest to his partner Jonathan’s stories of his days working for 90-year-old multimillionaire Clarence Bement, helping the old man tend his garden. But when Bement is found dead, an apparent suicide, Jonathan is adamant that the old man would never have killed himself, a theory also held by Bement’s grandson, Mel Fowler.


Jonathan and Joshua left a little early Thursday morning so Jonathan could tell the Bronson sisters of the trip. I took the bus to work so I could pick up Jonathan’s truck on my way home.

Promptly at ten o’clock, a knock at the door pulled my eyes up to the silhouette of a male figure on the opaque glass. I got up from my desk and walked over to open it.

I try not to think in stereotypes, but if the stereotype of a male flight attendant was of a strikingly handsome hunk all but radiating gay vibes, Mel Fowler was it. Not nelly, not fem, but unmistakably gay.


Jonathan’s brief but glowing physical description hadn’t done Mel justice. If he ever decided to hang up his airline steward’s uniform, he could instantly get a job as resident hunk on any soap opera on TV.

He was about Jonathan’s height and build, with a cover-model face and the kind of light-blue eyes that, in my single days, would have made me melt. (Okay, so they still made me thaw a little.) He was wearing a bright-blue sport shirt, white chinos, and dark brown loafers, all of which did nothing to lessen his overall sex appeal. I also caught the slight scent of a cologne I’d given Jonathan for our anniversary and which always drove me to distraction. It took quite a bit of will power to push my libido back into its little box and close the lid.

“Come in,” I said, a little unnecessarily, extending my hand.

His grip was strong and warm, and the thaw factor rose by several degrees. Whatever American was paying him wasn’t enough. But then I realized that, as Clarence Bement’s grandson, he probably didn’t need the money.

I showed him to a chair in front of my desk.

“Coffee?” I asked, having just made a fresh pot in anticipation.

“No, thanks,” he said. His voice would make a great topping for an ice-cream sundae, I decided. “I had a late breakfast.” And again, while most straights probably wouldn’t immediately pick up on it, if I had my eyes closed and heard his voice across a crowded room, I’d have known he was gay. It’s a gift we have.

I moved around to my chair and sat down.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Fowler?” I always used a client’s last name until otherwise advised.

“It’s Mel…Mr. Hardesty,” he said, grinning. Nice grin.

“Fair enough,” I replied, returning the grin and noticing the lid had come off of my libido box. I forced it back in. “And it’s Dick.”

“See? We’re making progress already.”

“I must admit I was a little surprised to get your call.”

He sat back in his chair. “You shouldn’t be. Grandpa B became really very fond of Jonathan in the short time he knew him, and Jonathan talked about you several times. He’s very proud of you, and you’re really lucky to have him.”

“Believe me, I know,” I said. “But why do you suppose your grandfather would have mentioned all this to you?”

“Well, at first I thought it was just his casual way of letting me know he knew I’m gay—we’d never talked about it, but how could he not know? Anyway, because he knew Jonathan was, he was probably just letting me know he was okay with it.”

He smiled, and I realized I’d been staring at him. He was truly hot.

Hardesty! a chorus of my mind-voices cautioned in unison.

“Your grandfather sounds like he was pretty sharp, even at ninety,” I said, pulling myself back to the moment.

“Oh, he was! Which is one of the reasons I’m here.”

“So, what can I do for you, Mel?” I repeated.

“You can find who killed him.”

“Have you talked to the police?”

“Briefly. They seem pretty convinced it was suicide. When I tried to tell them Grandpa B would never do that, they were very nice but pointed out that reaction is pretty standard in families of people who kill themselves.”

“Okay,” I said, as conversationally as I could manage. “And what makes you think his death was not a suicide?” I did not want to tell him that I’d already checked with the police regarding Jonathan’s theory.

“Because I know my grandfather, and I know he simply would not willingly cut his life short by so much as a minute.”

“But being confined to a wheelchair after his fall must have been really hard on him. And I understand a close friend had just died. Perhaps he was more depressed than he let you know?”

“Of course he was depressed; who wouldn’t be? But it was precisely because he knew his time was limited that made every day even more precious to him. He read, he loved music and his garden and his other hobbies—none of that changed after his fall.”

“Do you have any idea who would have wanted to kill him, or why?” Again, I knew full well that whenever a millionaire dies under suspicious circumstances, the why is often obvious.

He gave me a wry smile. “We can start with my family,” he said. “Or, more specifically, my uncle Richard’s side of the family. They define the term ‘money-grubbers.’ They were constantly hounding Grandpa B for money for one thing or another. They never let up, until toward the end he’d finally had enough and turned off the tap.”

“And how did they react to that?”

“I think you can guess. They were furious but didn’t dare let it show because they were afraid they’d be cut out of his will.”

I thought for a moment before saying, “And are they that demanding with your grandmother? She’s still alive, I assume?”

He shook his head. “Oh, yes, very much so. But it wouldn’t have done them any good. They all inherited the spending gene from her. She’s been living in Europe—she has a little pièd-a-terre, as she calls it, in San Remo on the Italian Riviera—for years, and hasn’t been back to the States in ages, so I’m the only one in the family who has a chance to see her every now and then.

“She’s had four wealthy husbands since she divorced Grandpa B, and ran through every penny she got from them. Her fourth husband left her the villa she lives in, and an annuity that allows her to live comfortably but not lavishly. She guards it carefully. And when she dies, the annuity stops. So, there is no reason to try to dun her for money she doesn’t have. At least, that’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.

“She’s in her mid-eighties now, and when I have a flight to Europe; she’ll sometimes come up to Paris or down to Rome for dinner with me, but I generally try to avoid it since the only thing she talks about is how Grandpa B did her wrong. She didn’t come to his funeral.”

“Interesting,” I said. “So tell me more about your family.” I already had gathered they were not the Cleavers.

“Think The PsychiatristsHandbook of Dysfunctions,” he said. “We’re all in there somewhere, on both sides of the family. But I’m worried that if anyone were looking for suspects, the first person they’d zoom in on is my mother. She’s schizophrenic and has been in and out of hospitals for years. We’re pretty close when she’s on her meds, but like a lot of schizophrenics, as soon as she starts feeling better she thinks she doesn’t need them anymore and ends up back in the hospital.

“Whenever she was off her meds, she was convinced Grandpa B hated her and was hiring people to kill her. I suppose that’s a leftover reaction from the garbage my grandmother fed her after she and Grandpa B got divorced.”

“And was she on her medication at the time your grandfather died?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve been working a lot lately, so I hadn’t talked to her for several days before it happened, and I was in London when I heard he’d died.”

“So you don’t know where your mother was at the time?”

He shook his head. “No. She usually locks herself in her apartment and won’t answer the door or the phone. But her word alone wouldn’t tend to hold much weight as an alibi if she needed one. Anyway, I know she could never kill anyone no matter what her mental state was.” He paused, looked at me, and grinned. “See what I mean about dysfunctions?”

Exclusive Excerpt: Gentle (a Shane & Corey Gay Teen Mystery) by Mark Zubro


Two high school boys try to survive amid death and danger in the desert, while hoping for the possibility of first love.

Shane Semereau wants to be left alone to read his books and carve his wood sculptures in the warm desert. His life is a swarm of confusion and violence, but he wants to be a force in making the world a gentle place. He grasps at those dreams. Cory Garcia is a bundle of electric energy who lashes out at everyone and everything, but loves to let his mind go in the world of dance. Amidst great danger and looming violence they find each other and unite against all that is arrayed against them at every turn.

Gentle Final Front Cover 7 7 2016 (2)


Chapter One

Sunday evening – orange groves

With a care born of fear and a caution mixed with suppressed

excitement, I parted the branches of the encircling tree. A southern

California winter night, cool, but not brutally cold. If it had been

brutally cold then the cloyingly sweet fruit around me would be

dead and the growers poorer by billions. At least that’s what the

exaggerators on the news always said.

Sunday night. Not yet ten o’clock but late to be out for a school

night. But Mom’s not home. I’ll have extra caffeine in the morning.

It’s not as if there’s a lot really great to stay awake for at school.

I gotta say, nothing about my goddamn life is normal.

Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. I go to high school. I eat food.

I take showers. I use the bathroom. I wear clothes except when I go

to bed.

Apart from that, my world is pretty wide open.

And I’m telling this story because maybe someone will listen.

I’m in the orange groves many weekend nights, most much

warmer than this, and mostly it’s quiet, and dark, and empty of all

save orange trees, and an occasional cluster of teenagers. Except

  1. Listening to them. Envying them, sometimes. Begrudging

their crude friendships, rough camaraderie. Observing the trysting

grounds of teenagers from hiding.

Out here on school nights, usually it’s only me and the moon and

the stars and the trees. I prefer the silence.

The dark comforted me, and this hiding spot had always been

perfectly safe. Few headlights whooshed past on the main road

hundreds of feet away, and the glow from those distant headlights

doesn’t reach this far. Even fewer turned down the long lane that led

to this secluded spot. And this late in the evening people and their

cars rarely crept toward me.

The bunch I was watching weren’t that far away. Close enough

that I could recognize them as kids from my school.

I can hear them. If the words ‘dude’ and ‘bro’ got banned from

the language, my peers would be unable to communicate even the

simple bits of idiocy they do exchange. I’m not saying all teenagers

are dumb. I’m saying these teenagers twenty feet from me made

dumb look good.

One was the star of the football team. Tall, strong, muscular.

Well, you don’t get to be star of the football team if you’re short and

skinny and a nerd like me. The other two were acolytes of his I knew

vaguely from school. There’s two thousand kids at Cactus Central

High School. It’s not like I’d memorized everybody’s name.

The wind is blowing from them to me. I smell beer, dope, sweat.

I hear them bragging about beating up some poor kid. They use

common slurs to refer to the kid they pounded the hell out of. I

don’t recognize the name, but it’s definitely not someone from their

ethnic group. These guys and a few of their hulking friends picking

on one kid.

My school can be rough. I try to be as invisible during the day as

I am now. I’m in their ethnic group, but I’m not one of them. I’d get

the hell beat out of me too.

I hear shuffling coming toward me. I ease deeper into the darkness

provided by the tree branches.

There’s all kinds of rumors you hear about a wild variety of

dangers out in the orange groves. Mostly it’s teenage imagination

fueled by teenage anxiety and/or stoked by parental fears, or it was

just plain fear in those parents’ minds. Silly crap. That a killer lurks

among the trees. Be frightened of being hurt, killed, kidnapped. The

stuff that really does happen can be more frightening. At least to me.

And then there’s the nutty stuff and silly rumors. That the ghosts

of variously manhandled kids, usually girls or women, appear at

strangely spooky spots on particularly eerie nights. Add a little fog

and a screwy teenager’s imagination and you get zombies and living

dead and vampires. Odd how those ghost sightings occur mostly

on foggy nights. I’m not sure how much imagination it takes to see

ghosts in the fog.

Another rumor was that kids lurked among the trees willing to

provide sexual favors. Wish I could run into one of those. I’d heard

that a group had caught a gay guy who had been spying on them,

and they’d tied him to the back of a bumper and dragged him until

he died. I never saw a report on it in the newspaper though or on the

Internet, so I’m not sure it’s true. A Google search revealed nothing.

A body was never found.

And then there’s the real stuff that I’ve seen. Sort of mundane, I

guess, kind of hot. This one time something happened in the middle

of the day, of all times. I’m usually not out here then, but that day

I was, and there was this guy sitting by himself in his car. He’d had

his eyes shut. At first, I’d thought he was sleeping. Then I’d seen the

glow of his phone in his left hand and his right arm moving rapidly

up and down. I’d inched as close as I could. He was a young guy, a

teenager, thin. He’d parked under the shade of a huge tree. All the

car windows had been open. From what I saw, he was good looking.

I’d wanted to watch everything, but I’d been afraid to get too

close. A few minutes later, I heard him give a soft groan, followed

seconds later by a smile of satisfaction on his face. Both of his hands

had disappeared and he’d lifted his mid-section, so I guessed he had

been pulling up his pants and underwear. Where had he wiped the


When he drove off, I was extra careful to make sure no one was

watching, hid in the deepest shadows, and for the first time out in

the orange groves, I took out my own dick. I don’t know how I had

the nerve. It took me only a few seconds to let go a load. I don’t do

that often, but it’s great when I do, being outside and in daylight. I

let my cum fall onto the ground under a tree. Whacking off outside,

and getting totally turned on by it, is that weird?

Tonight, the shuffling comes nearer. I barely dare to breathe.

Every kid in town knew about the one definite, for sure murder

in the past month, a teenager found floating in the irrigation canal.

The same canal I had to jump over to get from the fields around

the railroad tracks behind my house to these vast rows of citrus

trees and random, scattered clumps of other vegetation. No one had

recognized the dead kid. He wasn’t local. The corpse hadn’t been

torn up like it would have been if it had been dragged behind a

car. The body had never been claimed. No local kid was missing.

He might have floated for miles. Even with all their technology and

Internet hook-ups, the cops hadn’t found out who he was. Each

rumor was crazier than the last. That the killer had stuffed the dead

kid’s private parts in his mouth. That they’d cut off his hands.

None of that was true.

I’d watched him float by about an hour before he was found by a

grower. I’d been frightened and might have reported it, but if I used

my cell phone or called from home, they’d know who I was. I knew

he was dead. The body reeked and was bloated, gross, disgusting,

and definitely not breathing.

I wasn’t about to begin answering a lot of questions about what

I was doing out here and then maybe they’d begin to suspect me or

worse, arrest me and try to say I did it. My imagination can run away

with me, too. I was scared that night but drawn to the body at the

same time. I remember the eyes. Wide open. Cold, dark, and dead.

If my parents found out I come out here, there’d be hell to pay

about that.

No. There was no one lurking in the trees behind me tonight. No

one I’d heard or seen, and I’m special careful. The only live bodies

besides me were the ones I was spying on.

Now, I can hear the quarterback telling his buddies how much

he loved kicking the kid when he was down. In the pauses of his

discourse, I can hear the breathing of the one approaching me. I can

see his outline now. He’s within five feet of me.

I can see a glow of light. He’s got his stupid phone out. He’s away

from his buddies for ten seconds, and he’s taking a piss, and he’s

got his phone out. Since he’s looking at the glowing screen, the light

doesn’t shine toward me, which is good.

The soft rustle of cloth, the rasp of a zipper, liquid unleashed.

He’s pissing on the ground. The phone’s light isn’t pointed toward

his dick, which might be interesting to see.

And he doesn’t see me. They never do.

He finishes. Zips up. Gives a five second belch. I see him grab his

crotch and adjust himself. He stumbles back to the others. It’s hard

to walk on the usually crumbly ground in the orange groves. No

water in the dirt grooves for irrigation tonight.

I hear the pop of beer can tops. The flare of matches for more

cigarettes and dope. They’re getting louder as they get drunker and/

or higher. Now, they’re talking about the dead boy in the canal.

A lot of the time I can tell which kids are sneaking out for the

first time, and those who are hardcore partiers. It’s in the amount of

noise. The first timers are all whispering and shushing each other,

more giggling, too. The teenage-old-timers, the ones who’ve been

out before, they’re loud in a furtive way. Their attitude seems to be,

we’re tough and macho but keep one eye out—nobody can stop us

from partying, but the cops could come.

Once in a while there are couples who use this for lover’s lane,

but this is mostly a party place with a little making out now and

then. The real lover’s lane is farther back in the hills, and I usually

don’t walk that far. Besides, I think those kids deserve some privacy.

Sometimes, I see condoms on the ground. Once I found a broken

cell phone, couple times underwear, guy’s and girl’s. All kinds of

intimate things, but mundane items, too: cigarette lighters, a bong,

water bottles.

I know of three different kids in several different groups that I’d

listened to who said they knew who killed the kid in the canal. I think

they’re lying or exaggerating.

Mostly they talk about sex and computer games. I’m entranced

by the sex bragging.

But now this group begins discussing leaving. Another one of

them comes toward me. It’s the quarterback. I can tell because he’s

tallest with the broadest shoulders. His footsteps stop. This time

I inch closer. Movement of cloth. No zipper. He’s wearing sweat

pants. Sound of piss hitting ground.

You want a saint, look somewhere else. You want a straight kid,

you’re out of luck. You want a teenager who doesn’t think about sex

constantly, find a dead one.

Whenever I see the quarterback, Darrel Granger, in the hall at

school, I never look him in the eyes. We have one class together. I’m

sure he doesn’t know I exist. I barely ever glance at him. Just enough

that I’ve memorized the folds in the front of his jeans. But only long

enough to not get caught staring. I guess that’s longer than ‘glancing

barely.’ I’d watch in class to see if I could observe telltale bulges as

he sat and spread his legs. Sometimes I could.

I’d give a great deal to see Darrel Granger naked. Or be in his

arms. To feel him hold me. Right now, I’d just like to get a lingering

peek at his dick.

I slip another few inches in his direction. A side step. Dirt slides.

I can almost see an extra light pinkness next to his hand.

“Who’s there?” he calls.

Stay in the shadows? Run?

The other guys come toward us. They’re maybe ten, fifteen feet

to my right.

I crash out of the tree and take off. For the first second or two,

leaves, branches, and fruit tear at and bump against my skin.

“Hey,” somebody yells.

“Get him!”

I can’t possibly outrun them. They’re bigger. But I know the

trees and the groves. I dodge and dart, my shoes slipping. I trip.

Get up. It’s frantic. They’re too close. I can’t get to the secret paths

I know so well. But it’s too dark for them to follow my footprints.

I scurry forward with care and caution. I hear them stumble and

curse. They take a wrong turn, and I draw away. I begin circling and

eventually come around to almost behind them. I stop. They keep

going forward.

I thrust my body deep under the leaves and branches of a tree.

I lean my head against the trunk. I pull in deep breaths. I quieten. I

listen. They’re coming back. I turn to start another sprint.

Car headlights come down the dirt road. I can’t run. They’ll see

me in the lights.


The face of the boy floating in the canal comes to me. I don’t

want to be the next statistic.

I try to melt myself into the tree. I hear their footsteps. The lights

of the new car turn off. Car doors slam. I shut my eyes.

I hear Darrel and his friends pass on either side of the tree I’m

hiding in, but their attention is on the newcomers.

After they pass, I pull in air for what feels like the first time in


The two groups meet under the old pepper trees that line the

road. I hear acrimony.

I creep to the main path through the trees. When I get there, I

run full tilt. I am pretty fast on solid ground. I leap the irrigation

canal. Home is a short run to the embankment, up it fifteen or

twenty feet, over the railroad tracks, down the other side, across the

field, over our backyard fence, and into the house. It’s a mile and

a half across the field. When I’m halfway, I look back. No one is

behind me. I slow down. Check myself for injuries but only find a

few minor scrapes from twisting and crashing through the tree when

I first started running.